Soapberries – what are they?
Soapberries are an organic, vegan, allergy friendly and 100% natural washing detergent, which are usable from laundry, dish washing and cleaning, to shampoo, hand soap and barber foam – and naturally, is biologically degradable. Soapberries are incredibly effective and highly gentle to the environment. With soapberries you will be certain that your laundry is fresh and clean, and the mildness in the soap will make sure to maintain the colours and structure in your clothes for longer time. The soapberries can be used to all piece goods like silk, wool and kapok among others. Hence, if you are looking for a natural, environmentally friendly and coincidentally cheap laundry detergent – then the soapberries are exactly what you have been waiting for.
Sapindus Mukorossi means Indian soap
The soapberries are the fruits from the tree with the Latin name Sapindus Mukorossi. The name Sapindus originates from the Latin word Sapo, meaning soap, and the Indian word Indus, meaning Indian. Currently, the berry tree grows wildly in the tropical regions of Central America and southern Asia. Our soapberries grow wildly in the subtropical areas at the mountain foot of the Himalayas in northern Nepal. This is also where some of the best soapberry species can be found.
The tree blooms with its small white flowers through summer and grows its soapberries in late-summer of July-August. The soapberries, which nurtures around November-December, are small round yellow-brown shaped with a large black cover inside. This protects the seed in the soapberry.
Occasionally, the soapberries are mistakenly categorised as “soap nuts” or “washing nuts”, however, it is not the nut itself, which is being used, but the berry. Therefore, the correct terminology is: A soapberry. Through the winter season, the soapberries become ripened and falls to the ground, where they are collected and dried in the sun. The berries’ soap-rich pulp, which is now solid around the seed, is separated from the seed and is thoroughly examined before packed for distribution.
A sustainable production
The cultivation process of soapberries is incredibly sustainable, as the soapberry trees, after they have passed 9-years-old, can be harvested for roughly 90 years. Each tree produces around 35 kilos of soapberries every year. Therefore, the soapberry trees contribute to save a large part of the Nepalese forest, as the trees also gives the surrounding population an income. Thus, the soil is naturally maintained, and the trees are protected. The cultivation of the soapberry trees is extremely healthy for the soil, as the tree do not deplete the soul for its nutrients. On the contrary, it protects against drought and desert-like conditions, and fertilises the soil with its fruits.
The local population has collectively with other surrounding minorities, used the soapberries as laundry detergent and soap through centuries. Unfortunately, most of the Western chemical-rich laundry detergent become more frequently used in these areas too. As they do not have the same efficient water-cleansing facilities as the Western-countries have, they end up directly in the rivers and streams, thereby destroying the natural circle of life. The decreasing demand on soapberries from the local population does consequently mean an increased deforestation due to farms and construction. Thus, putting the tree’s existence at great danger. A danger we, as a company, are willing to do everything in order to avoid that unfortunate outcome.
How do the soapberries work?
The soapberry from Sapindus Mukorossi contains from nature an organic substance called Saponin, which is a natural antibacterial substance with the capability to dissolve and remove dirt on surfaces. Saponin is available in many fruits and vegetables (e.g. chickpeas) and protects the fruit from being eaten by insects.
Regular laundry detergent is filled with chemicals
Regular laundry detergent also contains surface substances or surfactants. However, these are often synthetically produced and contains environmental-damaging and non-biodegradable chemicals in order to effectively removes stains from textiles and surfaces. Consumer council TÆNK has written an article regarding the allergy causing and environmental-damaging chemicals, which regular chemical-based laundry detergents contains. They point at preservatives, colours and calcium binding agents (e.g. phosphate), which is problematic for the environment when they are being disposed as sewage. They also point at modern laundry detergents use of optical bleaches or bleaches, which cleanses the clothing and makes it look cleaner. However, these are also damaging chemicals for the environment, are difficult to decompose and may give skin irritation for some.
Then what about soapberries?
In these natural laundry detergents inhibits Saponin the surface tension in the water. Thereby, releasing the dirt on the surface and let the water clean the surface in a natural and environmentally-friendly way. The soap is released from the berry when soften in water. Opposite to regular laundry detergents, which are also rougher on clothes, it is not necessary to add softener. Not only do you avoid the chemicals, but you also completely avoid environmentally-damaging products such as softeners.
The soapberries do not add a scent to your laundry but will have a scent of cleanliness. If it is desired to add a scent to the laundry, then it is completely optimal to add essential oil extracts. Choose among our Eucalyptus oil, which adds your laundry a fresh scent of Eucalyptus, and our Citronella oil, which adds your laundry a nice scent of citrus. Just add a couple of drops in the bag with soapberries, or a little water, which is added in the tray for laundry detergents.
A light experiment with the soapberries will usually be the best approach to discover how the soapberries can be of best use to your needs. Some approaches may affect the way the soapberries react, thereby also affecting the way they help your needs. As our laundry instruction describes, we recommend using the equivalent of 4-5 whole soapberries for a wash. The quantity greatly depends on the quantity of laundry and how dirty it is. A small wash where the clothes are only a little bit dirty should 4 soapberries be enough. A wash with regular dirty clothes should 5-6 soapberries be enough. Finally, a big wash with really dirty clothes should 6-8 soapberries be recommended. You can always add two tablespoons of soda crystals to the wash for a more effective cleansing.
Works on all temperature settings
The soapberries can be used on all temperature settings but is most efficient in washes on 30-60 degrees Celsius. On quick wash on 30 degrees or lower temperatures, it can be recommended to use liquid soap extracted from soapberries. It may simply not produce soap as they are only soaked in water for a short duration. If you extract the soap from the soapberries, then you can use this liquid soap instead of the soapberries. The liquid soap can be easily made and does not demand extra ingredients besides water and soapberries. You can find our own recipe on a liquid soap here. For a regular wash 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of liquid soap from the soapberries is normally used.
Another option would be to soak the bag with soapberries in lukewarm water and add the water in the washing machine. Generally, the soapberries would be affected by the temperature they are being exposed to. The berries will release their soap faster in warmer washing temperatures, therefore the soapberries will used more quickly in high temperature washes compared to low temperature washes. Consequently, you may have to dispose of your berries after 3 washes instead of 5. The Saponin from the berry will be depleted and the soapberry becomes unusable when becoming light and soft. The berries may be decomposed in the nature.
The soapberry is a remarkable natural washing ingredient and will leave clothes clean and soft. Yet, as the soapberries do not contain bleaching chemicals, your white clothes will not stay white in the long-run. To solve this, we recommend two tablespoons of our soda crystal for a whiter result.
Washing instructions for soapberries
- Add the equivalent to 4-5 whole soapberry shells (adjust after laundry quantity and amount of dirtiness) in a cotton bag and bind it.
- (Optional) In case of a short wash or a wash at low temperature, we recommend placing the bag with soapberry shells in a glass with lukewarm water for a couple of minutes before washing.
- Fill your washing machine with dirty laundry and place the cotton bag with soapberry shells together with the laundry. If you have soaked the bag beforehand, you can then pour the water onto the clothes when adding the soaked bag too.
- When finished, place the cotton bag with the soapberry shells to the side, thereby having them ready for the next wash.
- The soapberries can be reused 4 times when washing at under 60 degrees. If you wash at over 60 degrees we would recommend to dispose the soapberries.
Homemade liquid soap from soapberries
- Add the equivalent to 15-20 whole soapberry shells (approx. 50 grams) in a pot with 2 litres of water. Bring it to a boil.
- Boil the berry for 10-15 min at low temperature.
- Remove the pot from the heat, cover the pot and let cool.
- Once the liquid has cooled off, sieve the shells and add the liquid in a bottle or jar with a lid. The soap should be kept in a refrigerator for maximum durability.
Hereafter, the used soapberries can be reused up to 3 times in 2 litres of water, or until the berries become bleached and soft. This should produce 7-8 litres of liquid soapberry soap.